Kolkata, Oct 1: City-based side Atletico de Kolkata (ATK) will look to exact revenge against holders Chennaiyin FC when the two heavyweights clash in an Indian Super League (ISL) football match at the Rabindra Sarovar Stadium here on Sunday.
Jose Molina, however said that it would have been better had some of the Indian players not missed the team’s pre-season training in Spain.
Praising the players for their hard work during the pre-season training, Atletico de Kolkata coach Jose Molina said that his team was fully prepared to take on defending champions Chennaiyin FC in the campaign opener of Indian Super League football.
Where to watch live
Atletico de Kolkata vs Chennaiyin FC is scheduled to kick off at 7 p.m. IST (2:30 p.m. BST, 9:30 am ET).
India: TV – Star Sports 1/HD, Star Sports 2/HD, Star Sports 3/HD. Star Gold, Star Utsav (Hindi). Jalsha Movies (Bengali). Asianet Movies (Malayalam). Asianet Suvarna Plus (Kannada).
Live streaming – Hotstar.
Europe: TV – Star Gold.
Australia, USA: TV – Fox Sports
Canada: TV – CBN, ATN Bangla
Bangladesh: TV – Channel 9
South-East Asia: TV – Eurosport
“I am very excited about the first match tomorrow. ATK is a very good team. They put in a lot of efforts. Yes, to start against the champion team is always difficult. But we are a strong team and we are fully prepared and confident of winning our first match,” Molina said.
Molina, however, said that it would have been better had some of the Indian players not missed the team’s pre-season training in Spain.
“It would have been better if they could have attended that training in Spain. But yes we had few days now. We had worked hard and we have prepared a strong team,” he said.
Former Spain World Cupper Molina took over the reins of ATK from compatriot Antonio Habas who’s now FC Pune City coach.
Asked whether ATK will have to engage in a shadow fight with former coach Habas, Molina said, “Habas did a great job here. But he is not here (in ATK) now. I am very happy with the players’ work. We are now focusing on our match with Chennaiyin FC right now.”
Dogged by injuries to key players at crucial junctures in 2015, coupled with domestic players not hitting top gear, the Kolkata side were good only in patches. Under then coach Antonio Lopez Habas, ATK peaked at the death to qualify for the play-offs, but failed to canter through to the summit round with their sloppy defending showing up.
Portuguese marquee buy Helder Postiga played just 74 minutes in which he scored twice in the opening match against the same team almost 12 months ago. The Euro 2004 finalist pulled his hamstring and was ruled out for the rest of the season after that game.
Though Iain Hume filled his shoes admirably, moving further up from his preferred position of a withdrawn forward, ATK lacked bite in the attacking third.
But for ATK’s success in the new edition, Postiga needs to poach in the goals, while on Hume and Sameehg Doutie lie the onus of feeding him with precision offerings.
ATK have retained seven of their offshore players including the likes of Borja Fernandes, Javi Lara and Tiri who were good last season, and the team management will be banking on their camaraderie to deliver the goods.
The cumulative experience of these players will also help the freshly assembled domestic player roster which has the likes of India full-back Rino Anto, East Bengal’s Bikash Jairu, Mohun Bagan’s in-form goalkeeper Debjit Majumder and his club teammates Pritam Kotal and Prabir Das among others.
Centre-back Arnab Mondal is one of two players to be retained and is expected to play the match at the heart of the defence along with Tiri. In midfield, ATK are likely to wear a similar look, with Borja, Doutie, Lalrindika Ralte and Jairu behind Hume and Postiga in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
In Chennaiyin though, the hosts have more than a formidable opponent. Though sans the services of their star marquee for the past two seasons Elano Blumer and ace striker Stiven Mendoza, both of whom did not sign for this season, the Abhishek Bachchan co-owned side have enough firepower to trouble the ATK rearguard.
Full-back John Arne Riise, Chennaiyin’s marquee this year, has a mean left foot, and comes with tonnes of experience, having played for the likes of Liverpool, Fulham, AS Roma and AS Monaco.
Nigerian striker Dudu Omagbemi — who has scored 73 goals in 89 appearances for I-League side Sporting Clube de Goa — will look to make up for Mendoza’s absence and partner hotshot India striker Jeje Lalpekhlua. Besides Bernard Mendy, Chennaiyin have also retained Raphael Augusto and Manuele Blasi, who will be tasked with giving thrust and bite to their midfield.
Asked if it was difficult for a goalkeeper to don the hat of a coach, Molina said, “It is not more easy or more difficult. Playing is one thing and coaching is another thing, two are completely different from each other. Now I am a coach and I will do my best to make my team win.”
Chennaiyin FC had ousted ATK in the semi-finals last year but Molina made it cear that tomorrow’s match will not be a revenge match.
“In football there is no such revenge match. If we win tomorrow then also we can’t go back to last season’s semi final. This is a new season and a new beginning.”
On ATK playing at Rabindra Sarovar stadium, he said, “I am sure that lot of work has been done to prepare the ground.”
Rabindra Sarovar last hosted a major tournament in 1999-2000 National Football League when they hosted Tollygunge Agragami. This year, the stadium was made ATK’s home ground due to unavailability of the Vivekananada Yuva Bharati Krirangan owing to the 2017 U-17 World Cup.